Filigree jewelry is not only eye-catching, it draws upon a range of techniques to create an effect that is both intricate and beautiful. Both age old and timeless, filigree jewelry ensures that your piece will be as unique as you are. For personal jewelry that tells an individual story, filigree is an effective option to achieve your distinct style. Creating motifs and imagery that represent you, your history and future, this ancient technique is perfect for legacy jewelry and pieces of contemporary beauty. At Elichai Fine Jewelry, we are proud to offer filigree jewelry fringing the vintage artistry to modern jewelry.
What Is Filigree
The term filigree is from the Latin roots filum and granum, meaning thread and grain. Originally an ornamental form of artwork created by entwining beads and grains onto wire, filigree has been a popular metalworking technique since ancient times. Used for a range of purposes, it was not a technique used strictly for precious metals, however, filigree is most commonly seen today in jewelry, fine art, and architecture in the Victorian style. It differs from other forms of jewelry as it is created by building the piece from quality metal wires, rather than the moulding or carving of a piece of metal or wax that has become more commonplace.
The process of creating filigree metal work begins when metal bars are formed and then pulled through high carbon steel wire plates with holes of different sizes to create wires of various gauges. The wires must be thin and pliable to be suitable for filigree. Once the wires are made, they are kiln or torch annealed to make sure they are malleable. The wire is then bent, rolled flat, textured, twisted, knotted, and plaited into shapes, scrolls, and whimsical patterns. In spite of its intricacy, filigree uses only basic tools such as pliers and tweezers to create dramatic effects and consistent dimensions. Filigree offers a truly unique result due to being handcrafted, and the finished quality is dependent on the skill of the craftsperson. In fact, the value in filigree lies more with the workmanship in the final product, rather than the material with which it has been constructed.
There are four ways to structure filigree. Openwork is often seen in rings and is created without a backing. The wires are formed into the required design and then soldered together to create structural stability. Openwork filigree usually relies on a framework to give the piece integrity. Ground-supported filigree is affixed to a solid surface and often incorporates very fine wire detail. A filigree piece can also be comprised of both openwork and ground-supported techniques. A fourth variation includes the use of enamel to infill the design and was common in filigree of ancient Greek origin. Embellishment comes from the use of gemstones and grains. Granulation is the addition of small spherical beads that are created by heating small pieces of metal or wire. Added into the design, they are set in the eye of scrolls and spirals, on junctions, and throughout the piece to draw attention to detail.
The Ancient History Of Filigree
Some of the earliest examples of filigree jewelry have been discovered on the Iberian peninsula and date back as far as 2500 BC, however, they are likely to have been transported there and traded by merchants and other seafarers. The origin of filigree jewelry is commonly thought to have been in ancient Mesopotamia, the birthplace of human civilization. Over time, the art of filigree has become a branch of modern jewelry making but in the past, filigree was a common skill for jewelers. So popular, it was practiced throughout the world and has become a traditional art form in many countries. The development of local designs and styles show the influence of the ancient craftsmen that shared the technique. From Europe to Asia and the Middle East, current patterns and styles created around the globe can trace their heritage back to distinct populations of artisans.
In the early 1900s during the Art Nouveau era, filigree wedding rings were very popular and were often set with precious stones such as diamonds, creating a monochrome effect. These rings were openwork designs and the wire was often shaped to depict flowers, hearts, and stars. Abstract patterns and geometric shapes were also popular at the time. A resurgence of the Art Deco movement has seen an increase in the popularity of antique style wedding rings, and therefore an interest in modern pieces being created utilizing this intricate technique.
Filigree Art Today
Around the world, the art of filigree has never gone out of fashion and is considered traditional in many diverse regions. To this day, artisans in countries such as India, China, Russia, Portugal, and Denmark continue to create jewelry, artworks, and housewares using Old World techniques. However, modern technology has had an effect on the production of filigree jewelry in some places. Machine casting has allowed imitation filigree to be mass-produced at a much cheaper price, but the unique character, quality, durability, and value are missing from items created in this manner. Care should be taken when commissioning an artist or jeweler to bring your vision to life. Take the time to research the person and understand their experience with the traditional methods used to create filigree, to protect your purchase and ensure a one of a kind piece. Another Old World technique that is often paired with filigree is enameling, especially cloisonné enameling. It is a great additional technique because it involves creating a picture with similarly made small wires to cloister the colors of glass enamel from each other. With cloisonné enameling and filigree, artist are able to paint vibrant beautiful pictures, and then frame them in the exquisite detail that only comes from filigree.
Elichai Fine Jewelry Creates Traditional Filigree For Modern Jewelry
When you are looking for a piece of jewelry that is as unique as the intended recipient, Elichai Jewelry can ensure that your piece speaks for itself. With a highly skilled artisan and rare gem procurement, bespoke jewelry is an expectation rather than the exception when you choose Elichai. Instead of searching for an antique piece to love, you can create your own heirloom jewelry to pass through the generations. A true representation of you and your family. At Elichai Fine Jewelry, we value filigree as a beautiful form of expression and storytelling that can be used to truly customize your special piece of jewelry.